The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi II, speaks with CHUX OHAI on the significance of the Moremi legend to Yoruba history and culture, as well as the reason why Queen Moremi the Musical, a joint production of the House of Oduduwa Foundation and Bolanle Austin-Peters Production, is showing for the second time. Excerpts:
Your Royal Majesty, can you tell us why you are endorsing the second season of Queen Moremi the Musical?
The story of Moremi, a very powerful one that happened many centuries ago, is still very fresh in our memories. It is to do with women and leadership. The story is still very relevant in this modern world and it suggests that we should give the womenfolk their pride of place.
Indeed, it is very important for us to understand that we should not categorise women as the weaker sex. Instead, we should encourage them to play a pivotal role in developing the society.
We decided to revisit Moremi’s story in order to refresh our memories on the role of women in society. Women in Africa, no doubt, have been playing very important roles in our society. Even now they can do greater things and attain much greater heights than men. They are quite capable of leading justly and competently, if they get to positions of authority.
Without Moremi’s exploits, the Yoruba would never have survived as a people. Her success propelled us to spread out across the globe. Today, there are close to 500 million Yoruba people all over the world. The population of the Yoruba in Brazil alone is about 100 million, if not more than that. Here in Nigeria, our population is almost 70 million. But the story of Moremi is beyond the Yoruba race. It is all about supporting women and encouraging them to add value to the society.
If you take a look at countries where women are given a lot of support and encouragement, you will find that they excel in different ways. It is evident that we have not given women enough leadership roles in Nigeria. It is way beyond expectations. Therefore, we expect our leaders to do the needful by restoring to women their pride of place.
I am pleased to see that, with regard to Moremi’s story, schools in Nigeria are beginning to replicate that theatre initiative in their extracurricular activities. They are trying to impact the lessons learnt from the story. It is very important for us to uphold our heritage, culture and tradition. It is equally important for us to know we are, where we are coming from and where we are going. Nobody will tell our stories better than the way we tell them ourselves.
Indeed, Moremi is a goddess of liberty. Beyond the shores of Yorubaland, Nigeria as a country and all over the world, the basis of Moremi’s beliefs and values is the principle upon which the foundation of a great country like the United States of America was laid. It is all about the belief and values of Moremi.
Beyond the musical that debuted last December, has there been any major documentary on Moremi? Is there any plan or strategy to take this message about sustaining the heritage and culture of the Yoruba to the people at the grassroots?
The documentation of Moremi’s legend has existed from time immemorial. All what we are doing is refining it by blending tradition and modernity, as well as letting people to have the awareness of her story. We are reaching out to our teeming youths aggressively on how to uphold the Yoruba heritage and culture. We are not leaving any stone unturned. We are using every means available to get across to them. We have several initiatives that are linked to Moremi, which the youths can embrace. It is an ongoing thing.
Do you support the idea of a female President in Nigeria?
Let a woman that is generally accepted by Nigerians step out. I am not talking about sectional politics here. Let a woman that is known across board in this country step out, too and see whether people will not vote for that kind of woman. I will be the first person to campaign for a woman that is generally accepted, detribalised, an embodiment of a true Nigerian and loved by all. If I didn’t believe in female leadership, I would not be championing the cause of the Moremi Initiative.
Do you have any intention to take Queen Moremi the Musical on a tour of secondary schools and tertiary institutions in Nigeria free-of-charge?
Yes, we intend to take the production around the country. But we have to pay the cast and the production crew for putting in extra man-hours. So we are looking for sponsors. We shall do that as soon as we get sponsorship.
What impact has the production of the musical had on the Nigerian theatre industry?
The Nigerian theatre industry is dying. A lot of people go to study theatre at the university. At the end of the day, they want to work in commercial banks. Fortunately, what we are doing right now is bringing back the theatre culture in Nigeria. We are discovering a lot of talents. With initiatives, such as we have, I think we are in the process of redefining the theatre industry.